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This hummer is coppery rust-coloured, just like the feeder.

Hummingbirds have discovered my feeder. It’s clear they migrated in, because one day there were none, and the next day there were dozens.

I am fascinated when these speedy little rockets perch and hold still.

I watch them from my home office window and marvel at their antics. Part of the appeal is that they are so remarkably tiny, as if being small should make it harder to perform their tricks. I watch them zoom in so quickly it’s a wonder they don’t bonk into something. In fact, I hung up a stained glass dragon (yes, I have dragons of all kinds in my house) right in the middle of the big window, to help them see the glass barrier. I’ve seen one hummer bump the glass so far, but no stunned birds yet this season.

They barrel around the big trunk of the tree that holds their feeder, always avoiding collision with each other, though sometimes only by millimeters. They perch on small branches nearby and guard the feeder, chasing off any other hummingbirds that try to sip. But sometimes I’ve seen three at a time, resting on the wire ring and taking leisurely sips every so often. One of their favourite places to sit is upon the Japanese maple that you see above. They sit there for a minute at a time, looking around, occasionally buzzing their wings.

This one’s a bit chubby. Is she a new momma? Or has he had too much at the feeder?

They certainly find the Japanese Maple a satisfactory perch.

Then zoom! Off they go! First up, then around, then hovering in place without a waver or drift. Two blast through, chasing each other, while two aim for the same spot on the feeder and explode in a burst of angry cheeps when they arrive at the same place at the same time. I have to tell you, angry hummingbird cheeps are the cutest thing ever.  They spiral all around my office garden (the garden I tend specifically so that I have something beautiful to look at while I work), hovering near the seed feeder, to see if cracked corn and sunflower seeds are of any interest, then they methodically check each of the other colorful plants, just in case.

I like this hummingbird feeder because it is metal and glass instead of plastic. It’s supposed to have an ocean theme, and instead of flowers, the birds suck from holes in seashells and starfish.

My rusted hummingbird feeder seems to get prettier every year. It’s topped with a beach umbrella that was a bit obnoxiously red and white when it was new, but is faded to perfection now. And the rusted metal doesn’t touch any of the sugar-water inside, so I don’t mind it a bit. And the birds don’t seem to mind.

Can you believe they’re birds? So very very tiny.

Evening sunshine makes the green feathers gorgeous.

Don’t bother me, I’m eating.

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A chipmunk feeding on the seeds I leave about for them.

Life springs forth in Spring. It’s irresistible.

I have chosen my home office location well, and have the welcome distractions of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks outside my window. This time of year I am also finding delight in Springtime blossoms.

Daffodil or narcissus?

Pacific Bleeding Heart.

I love the deep purple of the vinca.

Tulips live a short life but give such pleasure during that time. I don’t think there is such a thing as too many tulips.

Friday (yesterday) I worked a typical 10-hour workday (I work a compressed schedule), and the weather was spectacular! It reached 69 degrees here, and for much of the day there was not a cloud in the sky. I work at home most days, including yesterday, and racked my brain all day long for reasons to leave my desk and go outside. I really wanted to develop some kind of mild sickness that prevented me from working, but I couldn’t dredge up a sufficient illness. Sadly, I was well enough to stick it out all day long at my desk with my computer screens.

But I did grab my camera and run around during breaks and capture some of the blossoms in sunlight.

Oregon grape bursting with yellow flowers.

Narcissus along the driveway.

A closer shot of the narcissus.

Research shows me that all of the blossoms I call both narcissus and daffodil are under the category of narcissus. I grew up calling the flowers with a large trumpet daffodil. Those bloomed and passed already. The daffodils on my property are all a deep, sunshine yellow. Now I have new blossoms of white petals with yellow or orange trumpets that are very short. I call these narcissus.

I mentioned recently to fellow blogger Derrick J Knight that the deer ate my camellias over the winter. I included a photo below. Luckily they only ate the leaves off, and left the plant to try and recover. I see small buds of regeneration already, and I have learned the important lesson that some plants need to be covered in the winter. At my place, this includes camellias, azaleas, hydrangeas, honeysuckle, and hellebore. I believe all of them are still alive, but rather decimated. I will be a better steward from now on.

Volunteer grape hyacinths add colour along the path.

Pitiful camellia after the deer ate it this winter.

Peony looks very healthy.

This morning, chilly and wet, the scenes from the same window were still captivating, as I caught hummingbirds and a chipmunk going about their days, much less concerned about the rain than this fair-weather human.

In my last post I commented concern that sugar water would not be enough to provide a balanced diet for hummingbirds. So I looked it up and discovered that sugar water is a supplement to a hummingbird’s diet that includes small insects and spiders. Multiple organizations that profess to have a hummingbird’s best interests in mind assure me that the sugar water is a good thing for them. Just no food coloring.

Sugar-loving hummingbird, returned from her winter playground.

The chipmunk seems unconcerned that I loom at the window with an enormous lens pointed at her.

I did glance out the back window and spot another heron. I have poor eyesight, so I spotted only a great grey blur out in the grass. It is rather exciting to train the camera out there, focus, and see this enormous, elegant bird, on his way to eat some of my fish or frogs from the pond. They move quickly, and I am slow with the manual focus, so… I apologize that the image is blurry.

You may recall that I can never get a great shot of the Great Blue Herons who fish in my pond. This photo proves nothing has changed.

One of the pieces of my character is that a sense of beauty always gets through the static and fog of whatever else is going on. If I am consumed by a particular veteran’s case at work, if I am worried about my Tara making their way through the world  away from home at college, if I can’t make a reassuring plan for how to pay all the bills, if I remember that I am lonely, or that I miss my mother, or that refugees are suffering, or women still do not have their rights protected… no matter how powerful the dark thoughts, beauty pierces the cloud and makes me smile. How grateful I am to be human and to be able to comprehend beauty.

Looking toward Portland along the Columbia River on a typical April day.

Ok, to be honest, it’s mostly still raining. But that’s what the weather does around here: it rains. The trick is to look at the other details.

The sun actually does peek out every so often, and it’s a warm, invigorating sun this time of year. A sun that means business.

One trick to avoid letting the rain get you down: take photos when the sun comes out, however briefly.

The temperatures average in the 50s now, instead of the 30s or 40s. Warmer temperatures bring calm to me. (Maybe it’s simply because I’ve stopped shivering!)

Things are sprouting. Buds are opening. Daffodils are blooming. I thought for sure I’d have a photo of some of the exciting new growth, but alas. I dug through all my recent photos and I see nothing. But the growth is there and it fills me with smiles.

Hummingbirds are back! They are sucking through the sugar water like they’re starving to death! It got me to thinking the other day: how can that be good for them? I’ve always made hummingbird juice by boiling sugar water into a light syrup. But…is that truly what they survive on? There’s no vitamin value in it. I think I will do some research. The hummingbirds have so far been too hard for me to catch with my camera, so have some ducks instead.

Ducks in the pond. This was only a few weeks ago, but already it is much much greener on the banks.

Reflections

I’ve been lucky enough to catch a couple of videos of the critters around here. I hope it isn’t boring to you that I always post new photos of the animals I see. I find unending joy in them. These big beautiful animals so wild and different…and so close to me!

I had been seeing elk sign out there, but finally got to see the magnificent beasts themselves one morning.

Tara came home over Spring Break. It’s always fun and calming to have my kiddo home again. That side of the house gets opened up, and the heaters come on and there is music blasting and the shower running, and ahhh…. all is right in the world.

My college sophomore. Tara has dyed their hair dark green this time (can you tell?). I can never predict what will happen next with that hair!

They kicked my butt at Scrabble, due in part to their word skills, but maybe possibly also due to these rotten tiles? And yes, I posted this photo on facebook and got a dozen great suggestions for what to do with my hand. But it is TOO LATE you people!

I took my friend Vlad into the Gorge and we played in waterfalls in the rain. And why not? Since viewing waterfalls, one tends to get wet anyway. A rainy day is a perfect day to go the Gorge.

Bridal Veil Falls is just one of many astounding waterfalls along the Old Columbia Gorge Highway.

I liked this crooked old mossy tree branch as much as the arched bridge behind it.

The dramatic cliffs around here are, of course, the reason for the amazing waterfalls.

One of my favouritest, most beautiful, inspiring friends was diagnosed with cancer in January. She is another mom with a huge heart and an open mind and an honest gaze upon the world, that I put effort into keeping in my life because she’s the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up. Susie has been through chemo and radiation and is right now waiting to see what the next step is. She lives in Boston and I am so very far away when I want to be there to drive the kids to practice, and pick up some groceries, and mop the floor for her. I can’t do any of that. But I can send her messages of love and messages that don’t say anything about cancer, so maybe for 2 minutes, there will be no cancer on her mind. But I can be a forgetful, scatterbrained friend, no matter how much I love her. So I got the idea to dye my hair pink to remind me to send a note to Suz. It’s temporary dye, so I have to re-dye once a week, and I’ve been doing it since January. And I am proud to report that I have, indeed, remembered to send cards and notes.

Pink! And green! Look at that springtime hue behind me: woo hoo!

One of my many fires on the back of the property.

I’ve been cleaning up the land. Branches down everywhere, accumulated during the winter snows and rains and wind. I’ve been hauling them into piles and setting them alight. It’s a tricky thing to slog through the mud to a pile of wet wood in the rain and set it all ablaze, and I have gradually begun to perfect the art. And…very little chance of wildfire… so there’s that! 🙂

I hope you are enjoying the change in the season, finding your sources of joy, and making a way to connect to the people you love.

Sunshine glistens off the water of Beaver Creek on my property.

Sunshine glistens off the water of Beaver Creek on my property.

After the heat of Santiago, I arrived at the airport in Portland to the winter season once more. In a few hours I was home in Rainier, where a thin layer of snow still covered the ground. Over the week that followed, more snow fell. It’s not a lot of snow as far as snowy places go, but for our area it is unusual. And just in time for Christmas!

Winter is not so bad when it's this pretty.

Winter is not so bad when it’s this pretty.

Looking along a different stretch of the creek.

Looking along a different stretch of the creek.

Snow collects on the top of the frozen pond.

Snow collects on the top of the frozen pond.

Chicken tracks.

Chicken tracks. When I arrived home, the chickens were lose and running free through the snow. They missed me and were glad to be led home.

Kitty covering her nose for warmth.

Kitty covering her nose for warmth.

Deer don't mind snow much.

Deer don’t mind snow much.

The view out my home office window. Having a view like this while I work makes me grateful in so many ways.

The view out my home office window. Having a view like this while I work makes me grateful in so many ways.

Tara and I bought a $5 tag from the U.S. Forest Service and went up into the mountains to collect a tree. We didn’t find much in the way of trees, but we had a great adventure. Soon after we entered National Forest land, we came upon a couple of young men trapped in a little car on an icy bridge. They had tried to cross the bridge the night before and became high-centered on the snow berm in the middle, and couldn’t get any traction on the ice. They had spent the night out there and were SO glad to see us! I towed them off the bridge with the Jeep and we pushed the car to help them turn it around and get them out of there. They looked in pretty good shape, but were ready to eat and get warm again.

Waterfall in the forest.

Waterfall in the forest.

Tara bundled up.

Tara bundled up.

Things turned violent.

Things turned violent.

We made it home with a tree from a U-cut tree farm instead.

We made it home with a tree from a U-cut tree farm instead.

front of the old note

front of the old note

back of the note

back of the note

In the chill, it’s obvious my thoughts keep going back to those warm days such a short time ago. I’m still peeling from the sunburn, but the mosquito bites are all healed. Yay! I’ve got the stamps on my passport to prove it really happened. I was gathering some of the money together to send to my brother, who collects foreign currency as I do, and it occurred to me that my Uncle Sean was a missionary for the Mormon church in the 1980s and did his mission in Chile. He sent me a 100 CP note back then and I still have it. The currency has de-valued, and Chile doesn’t even *make* 100 peso bills anymore.img_2697

 Merry Christmas everyone and have the happiest of New Year’s celebrations! My long, annual Christmas missive is delayed, obviously, but I’ve had a really productive December. I spent two weeks on vacation, I finished the Mt. Hood Cherokees newsletter this morning, and sent it out to everyone on the mailing list. I’ve got all Tara’s presents wrapped. The tree is up and simply gorgeous. Santa comes tonight and we are all very excited about it!

Autumn sun heats the surface of my pond.

Autumn sun heats the surface of my pond.

I have an idea to plant a weeping willow on this tiny island one day.

I have an idea to plant a weeping willow on this tiny island one day.

On my podcasts it’s all election all the time today. Even on the BBC! Thank goodness I have something else to think about. Fall brings some delicious warmth after an unusually cool and wet summer. If I still worked for NOAA, I would have been reviewing charts and models all year, and would know if it was the result of El Nino patterns, as I suspect. It’s typical Autumn weather now, and it suits me just fine. Mostly rain, but broken up with scrumptiously warm and sunny moments. Warm as much for the colour as for the heat.

See how patriotic I am! The flag has complicated meanings in the States, which pains me. Despite the meanings I *don't* want others to take, I take the chance and display my country's flag anyway.

See how patriotic I am! The flag has complicated meanings in the States, which pains me. Despite the meanings I *don’t* want others to take, I chance it and display my country’s flag anyway.

Each evening, there is a brief moment where the sun has an opportunity to hit the front of the house through the trees. That is, if it's shining.

Each evening, there is a brief moment where the sun has an opportunity to hit the front of the house through the trees. That is, if it’s shining.

I voted days ago, taking advantage of Oregon’s statewide mail-in ballot. It was an instant relief to get that double sealed and signed envelope into the mail. Ah, to be able to ignore the clamouring voices. And now I’ve sought them out for entertainment value. I watched all of the Saturday Night Live debates between Kate McKinnon and Alec Baldwin. They’re a riot. Kate does such a great job of portraying Hillary Clinton that I was actually able to see how people can dislike her. Personally I find the prospect of having a smart, introverted, strong, and empathetic woman for President to be nothing short of exhilarating. My anticipation dulled only slightly at the knowledge that there is a good chance that Congress would fetter her as effectively as they have our current President.

This handsome 3-point stood just on the verge of eating the rest of my honeysuckle.

This handsome 3-point stood just on the verge of eating the rest of my honeysuckle.

The next day he ate my apples, to which he is welcome.

The next day he ate my apples, to which he is welcome.

Then he napped in the grass. It warms my soul that these deer feel comfortable sleeping here.

Then he napped in the grass. It warms my soul that these deer feel comfortable sleeping here.

I was proud to be a part of my own friends group when a rousing text-conversation burst up over the topic of Meaure 97, and whether to tax multi-million-dollar corporations at a level corresponding to the rest of the nation. It’s good to know the people in my life care as much as I do about voting intelligently. I imagine Nike, Intel, Columbia Sportswear and the rest of the corporations (most not headquartered in Oregon) could stand to pay their fair share in taxes. I was taken aback that my fave bookstore in the whole wide world, Powell’s, spoke out against Measure 97, saying that if they had to pay higher taxes they might go under. I do hope they’re being dramatic. The biggest shock of all this election season came when I reviewed the voter booklet that explained the issues, and found that a corporation in Oregon has to have sales in mega millions before they are taxed as much as my own personal income tax. I am astonished to learn this.

I have yet to get a close up photo of this remarkable fellow, who is attracted to my pond for fish reasons.

I have yet to get a close up photo of this remarkable fellow, who is attracted both to my pond and my creek for fish reasons.

Here he is again, even farther in the distance.

Here he is again, even farther in the distance.

These geese make a wonderful call, that sounds somewhat human-like. I have yet to identify them.

These geese make a wonderful call, that sounds somewhat human-like. I have yet to identify them.

Lets talk about emails, because, why not – everyone else is. Emails. Emails. I recently commented on a friend’s blog that the idea of having my own personal computer server to manage my government work sounds divine. At my home office, just like the Secretary of State, I am allowed to use only government equipment. I use an aging CPU with outdated software. I call her Old Bessie, and she takes around 22 minutes to be up and running each morning (I’ve timed the process), after logging in to the protected network and verifying my identity with passwords and chip ID cards and the like, through multiple firewalls. I can sing the Jeopardy theme song after each click, while I wait for my 0’s and 1’s to travel to the hub in Illinois and back again. Our government IT department is understaffed and underfunded. I get these little warning messages all the time “You are using an unsupported version of…” but since I do not have administrative authority, I am not allowed to touch any of it. And don’t talk to me about getting new hardware, because that’s up to you, the taxpayer. There are hundreds of things in more critical need of taxpayer dollars.

Anyhoo, when I heard that Mrs. Clinton had a personal server, the emotion I felt was envy, not rage or suspicion. “If only!” If the rest of us peons had the means to acquire our own systems, you can bet the lady candidate would be only one of legions who engaged in the practice.

In the back of the property

In the back of the property

One last look at the lovely pond.

One last look at the lovely pond.

Tomorrow will be a frenzy. Thank heavens I work till 6pm and I’ll miss most of it. I have a demanding job and I won’t even be tempted to follow things a little bit, because I need to stay focused.

But ok, honestly? I’m still thinking about it. As soon as the work is done I will find some kind of live stream to plug into. Because it really does matter how this goes. I know the President is only one person, and that one person does not have the power we think she has, and that one person does not have the power the majority of people insinuate upon her. She will be a face to the world, and a champion of causes, but a woman who has to find a way to work with the team, whether that team is hostile or friendly. She will have to continue to do her job while crazies try to find a way to impeach her, and straightjacket her, and defame her. She will have to stand tall while people talk about her wrinkles and her waistline and her butt and her voice and her taste in clothes. And like many women in the workforce, she will have to do the job spectacularly to maintain even the mildest respect from the masses.

We’ve been oh, so scared to talk about it, but we are right on the edge of electing a woman as a President.

It is so important that she is elected. Who else (among women who want that job) is baddass enough to pull off a woman in the White House? I think she doesn’t care if you hate her, and I don’t care if you hate her, but she can do the job. And oh, my fingers will be crossed all night long that Americans will give her that chance.

My lawnmower broke a second time this year, and while I was unable to mow, the daisies took over! What a delicious silver lining.

My lawnmower broke a second time this year, and while I was unable to mow, the daisies took over! What a delicious silver lining.

I couldn't get enough of the daisies. I never did mow them because I didn't have the heart. Just let them die and then pulled them up.

I couldn’t get enough of the daisies. I never did mow them because I didn’t have the heart. Just let them die and then pulled them up.

I am reluctant to say goodbye this year. Last summer was dry and hot for so long. That’s the way I like it. First, because I am crazy for dry & hot weather (don’t ask me why I live on the Columbia River, 45 miles from the ocean). Second, because when you have full-on summer, it makes you hungry for Autumn. This summer was cool and wet. Bleh. And while the crisp mornings and short sunny days and October colours are my favourite season… this year I’m still yearning for summer. Just when will summer start anyway? I think I was warm enough to wear sandals without socks on about six days in total, and those weren’t in a row! I look at the calendar and see I may as well give up hope and start looking forward to summer 2017.

Here’s a goodbye to my summer. As you can see, the sun did shine now and then, and I ran outside with my camera!

First I am excited to show off some new birds I have spotted this year, as well as some I’ve seen before. I just learned that the Eurasian Collared-Dove first arrived in the contiguous 48 US states in 1980, in Florida. And look! Happy and healthy over here on the West coast already.

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

This was Thomas, while I was taking photos of the Yellow Throated Warbler.

This was Thomas while I photographed the Common Yellowthroat Warbler.

You talking to me?

You talking to me?

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Beneath the bird feeder I've collected two Juncos, a Black-headed Grosbeak, and a chipmunk.

Beneath the bird feeder I’ve collected two Juncos, a Black-headed Grosbeak, and a chipmunk.

How cool is this?!

How cool is this?!

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Even though I see them on a nearly daily basis, I still love the deer that show up. There have been two regulars all summer, both small does, but one is noticeably smaller than the other, so I have wondered if they are mother and daughter. The smaller one loves to play, and prances, and bows, and sprints in circles trying to get the bigger one to play. The bigger one twitches her ears and reaches down for another mouthful of grass. I love getting up in the morning to see them sleeping beneath the apple tree.

The littler, spunky one that loves to play.

The littler, spunky one that loves to play.

The mellow deer, eating from my garden.

The mellow deer, eating from my garden.

Waiting for the apples to ripen.

Waiting for the apples to ripen.

Thomas and Chaplin love it here, but there are continued problems. They fight with my Racecar and with each other. Do you know anyone in Oregon who wants to adopt?

Chaplin is named for his mustache, and because he's in black and white!

Chaplin is named for his mustache, and because he’s in black and white!

Thomas is wary of the freshly escaped chickens. (Don't worry, they are back in their pen.)

Thomas is wary of escaped chickens. (Don’t worry, they are back in their pen.)

Bullfrog enjoying a rare sunny day.

Bullfrog enjoying a rare sunny day.

My pond is evaporating again and it’s distressing. I really need to find a way to keep that thing filled. I can’t count on another humongous flood this winter like last year, to fill it up again. I have enlisted the input from my neighbors. There are three homes in a row here, and no one else in sight. And it’s nice that I can only see forest and fields in all directions except one, but why cram all three houses together with all this land? I just don’t get what people are thinking sometimes. So anyway, I’ve talked to the neighbors farthest away, because their back deck looks down onto my pond and they are always worried about it. They have lived here 22 years and know exactly how to take care of it. Their ideas are great, and their offers to help are great, so now we just wait on the spare change to collect so I can purchase the needed equipment. Stay tuned…

In fact, rain and lack of funds is keeping me from my annual 5-day solo backpacking trip this year. It’s such a sad thing. I toyed with the idea of driving down to New Mexico or Utah, to get some sun, but then there is also the problem of taking care of the animals. I’ve opted for a couple overnights locally. Hopefully it is just as fun, if not as epic, to stay one night somewhere nearby, and do it again a few days later.

 

I started running again, in the mornings before work. Here's downtown Portland at my favourite time of day.

I started running again, in the mornings before work. Here’s a marina in Portland at my favourite time of day. I work in one of those tall buildings.

My blogger friend Marlene (insearchofitall) asked in her post: “What are you up to?” All the usual little bits of life are going on at breakneck speed.

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”                         ~ Lewis Carroll

Tara voted for the first time in the Oregon primaries. This is a photo of Tara volunteering to get other college students registered to vote.

Tara voted for the first time in the Oregon primaries. This is a photo of Tara volunteering to get other college students registered to vote.

Interesting bit of news: my father is moving to Romania. A modern romance is behind it, of course. He met his wife online because they both play the same computer game. They have interacted for years, flirted and fell in love for a year, then last summer my Pa flew to Romania and married her. The plan originally was to bring her to the U.S., but the paperwork is proving too much of a challenge for two intelligent humans to overcome, so Pa has given up and will move to Romania. He expects to be gone in less than a month. Hopefully together at last in time for their one-year anniversary.

Last month I made an emergency trip to his place on the Snake River, south of Boise, Idaho, to help him pack up the giant house. That was after two of his sisters and a nephew-in-law showed up to host a yard sale for him and start the packing. This week a sister and a niece will arrive to do more of the same: haul things to the donation store, maybe hold another yard sale, pack more stuff. It was good to see my Pa, and I made a bonus stop at a fave winery just up the road from his place and accidentally bought two cases of Ste. Chapelle wine.

One of my dearest friends moved from Honolulu after 16 years and now lives right here, almost beneath the St. John's Bridge!

One of my dearest friends moved from Honolulu after 16 years and now lives right here, almost beneath the St. John’s Bridge!

I have been asked to take two of his four cats. Yes, my Pa is the Crazy Old Cat Man. Thomas and Yeowler won’t be going to Romania and need homes. Racecar is going to hate life for awhile, as she doesn’t get along with any other cat – ever – for as long as they live together (I know this through painful experience). I may get in touch with my grumpy side too, if this cat interaction goes like the last attempt did. My hope is that, since all of them are older cats, and since the boys have group skills they could teach to my princess, maybe it will be ok. I am also hoping that I can keep the two cats alive. They aren’t mine and I’m feeling extra pressure  to keep them well. Anyway, cross your fingers for us.

It took around two months, but the chicken pen is done. The chicken pen man is also my wood delivery man. He is getting married in a week, and getting ready for the wedding has taken precedence over the chicken pen, which I can certainly forgive. Also, we had a few setbacks, the biggest being when we discovered that only 10 inches down is an enormous slab of rock underground, so he couldn’t bury half the 12-foot 4x4s into the dirt for stability. Instead, he had to buy concrete and set them that way. Not to mention having to saw the tops off half the 4x4s so they would be the same height as the ones buried two feet into the dirt.

Hen fence under construction.

Hen fence under construction.

Jailed hens

Jailed hens

I used Paint Shop Pro to lighten this up from a dark morning shot.

I used Paint Shop Pro to lighten this up from a dark morning shot.

Chainsaw carving inside the lawnmower repair store.

Chainsaw carving inside the lawnmower repair store.

The three remaining hens (because Lacey got hit by a car): Tawny and the twins: Jamie & Phil are now behind wire. So far, no escapees. I suspected a higher wall would do the trick. It has no top, but chickens aren’t the best fliers, so I believe this will be sufficient as long as winged predators don’t find them. As I told Marlene, they get distressed when they see me at a distance and can’t come running like they do (omigosh it’s the sweetest thing ever to have fat, saucy chickens running to you at the moment they hear your voice). But, like goldfish, they soon forget they are in a pen, and get happy again for a couple hours, till they remember again that they are penned up. I will get new chicks, but not this year, as I simply don’t have the bandwidth to add babies to my list of chores.

I mowed the huge lawn one time, and noticed the riding lawnmower was not running well. My neighbor borrowed it and when he brought it back he said the same thing. So I called and asked about repair time. They said it would be about 10 days, and I figured that was fair, so with the help of my neighbors and their trailer, I got the tractor to the shop. When I dropped it off he told me, “Better plan on two weeks, to be safe.” Thirty-five days later I finally got it back. I need to remember it’s the country, and country schedules are not the same as city schedules. Besides which, it’s probably the worst time of year to take in a lawnmower, since everyone else in the county has also just discovered their machine isn’t working at its best.

My best friend's son feeding chickens.

My best friend’s son & chickens

Neighbor girl: chicken wrangler

Neighbor girl: chicken wrangler

The grass got deeper and deeper, so I called a professional lawnmower, who was going to stop by and look at the place and give me an estimate. But he threw out his back. A week later he called me up, and since my tractor was still not home, I said I was still interested. We agreed on a time to mow. That morning he contacted me once more to say his tractor had to go into the shop (the same place mine went to). He figured it would be back in a couple days, and said he could mow my lawn the following week. I told him nevermind.

We've had a couple bonfires to burn up the branches collected over the winter.

We’ve had a couple bonfires to burn up the branches collected over the winter.

Light blue irises from the Morrison House, and purple Irises from Mom.

Light blue irises from the Morrison House, and purple Irises from Mom.

I began my jungle mowing project last night in the rain, and some of the grass is chest high. It is slow going. Grass that high mostly just lays down when a mower goes over it, rather than acquiesce to a haircut. I anticipate a multi-week project to get it under control again. If you remember my story from the first time around, this one will be worse. Plus side: the riding lawn mower has a drink holder. Turns out, Ste. Chapelle in a tumbler fits nicely.

Irises are in bloom and when the first one put up a bud, I cried. My mother brought me several plants down from her north Idaho mountaintop when she was alive and visited us every year in Portland. She also brought lavender and peony which I still have. Anyway, the flower blooming was like having my mother here, and that’s what made me cry. I miss her so much. She brought the flowers when I was living on Morrison Street, and we called our house the Morrison House. I always name my houses – strange that I haven’t named the current one yet. Then we moved to the Blue House, where I lived when most of you got to know me. The irises have come along. Amazingly, the light blue ones bloomed this year, when they never bloomed at the Blue House. The blue ones are from the Morrison House, and I thought those were all lost. But now I have a little piece of that home too, and it is good for my soul. I’m sentimental that way.

The view from my office.

The view from my office.

Vulture in the forest.

Vulture in the forest.

Evening Grosbeaks

Evening Grosbeaks

Blackheaded Grosbeak

Blackheaded Grosbeak

I installed the first of several bird feeders outside my office window. It took a week for the birds to discover it, and now they are there all the time. Most beautiful so far is probably the Evening Grosbeak. One of the many Blackheaded Grosbeaks flew into a window one day, and did not recover. So far, no new and exciting birds from what I’ve already seen out here, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time and season before word of the feeder spreads.

Speaking of exciting birds, vultures have been perching outside my window. Not sure what it is about this particular spot, but I’ve seen four at a time up there in the trees. Typically they are deep in the foliage, and disappear as soon as I go outside. I did manage to get a shot of one on a stump, through the window.

…and so that’s what I’ve been up to. Oh yeah, there is my job which makes it all possible and yet keeps me too busy to ever really enjoy my place. I put in about 60 hours a week at my job, including commuting. If you add up all the hours when I sleep, it really doesn’t leave much left. Somehow, I manage to mow the damned lawn, wash dishes, do  laundry, see my boyfriend, help my dad, camp with my kid, volunteer for the Cherokees, and update facebook! ha ha! Life is a giant puzzle and I find such delight in discovering pieces that fit.

My farm is greening up in the Spring weather.

My farm is greening up in the Spring weather.

Not to give a false impression: it’s not really a farm and I’m not really a farm girl. But just give me a little time…

I grew up on some land. We had pigs and rabbits and chickens to supplement our only meat supply each winter: deer, elk, and if we were lucky, bear. We chopped wood to heat the house and to cook on the wood stove. In the early days, Mom cooked all our meals on the beautiful cast iron stove. I learned how to make toast on the surface by sprinkling a little salt, to keep the bread from burning. We used the stove to heat a flat iron to iron clothes because we had no electricity. We took our baths in an big aluminum tub in the yard, beside the pump, because we had no indoor plumbing. And yes…we woke up sleepy in the middle of the night and shoved our feet into boots to trudge through the snow to the outhouse. I am a rare remnant of American history, in that my childhood was from an earlier century.

I’ve been nostalgic for decades, daydreaming of the someday when I could have a farm of my own, and now I’ve got it. But see, here’s the thing: in the meantime, I became a city girl. Not in my soul, but in my experience. Because of my job, I’ve had to live in cities. I’ve only known electric heat and natural gas water heaters for those luxurious hot showers inside my home. When I was lucky, I had a little patch of grass to mow and some dirt in which to bury some bulbs for next season.

Managing a big piece of land is going to be a big job, and I am confident I can figure it all out. I’m also wise enough to know there will be a sharp learning curve. But off I go! Look out world. 😉

The Hussies behind a fence.

The Hussies behind a fence.

Eggs in their proper place.

Eggs in their proper place.

I grew impatient with the idea that perfectly good eggs were being stashed in the forest, as a result of my wandering Hussies. I began a campaign to diligently collect the hens each day and return them to their pen. With a four-foot fence they were contained most of the time, and typically only one or two hens would fly to freedom per day. After one week I had a carton full of eggs and the Hussies were less inclined to escape. Then I contacted a local man I know to come and build me a respectable chicken fence.

Douglas helped me take down the old fence so we had room to put up a new one.

Douglas helped me take down the old fence so we had room to put up a new one.

I was tickled by the official label slapped onto my lumber order.

I was tickled by the official label slapped onto my lumber order.

My boyfriend and I (yes!) pulled out the old fence to make way for the fence guy to build a new one. After two weeks of being returned to the old pen, the hens got into the habit of using their lovely henhouse with perfect little boxes filled with dry straw. So, while they have returned to their wandering habits, they still come home to lay. I am so pleased to be getting daily brown eggs, with thick shells and dark yolks you get from country hens.

I had to pick up two more 4x4s in the Jeep, which is not made for hauling lumber.

My Jeep is not designed for hauling lumber, but that didn’t stop me.

Some feathers to help me remember my Lacey, the sassiest of the bunch.

Some feathers to help me remember my Lacey, the sassiest of the bunch.

Fence-building is currently underway, but we had a tragedy nonetheless. Miss Lacey, whom you met not too long ago in my post about finding a stash of eggs, wandered into the country road and was hit by a car. I researched and decided not to try to eat her. First because she died by blunt force, which likely ruptured her organs, and second, because those organs likely had a chance to contaminate the meat as she laid beside the road all day long before I came home from work and found her. I am sad to lose my Lacey, as you can imagine. I’ve grown to love the bold & sassy Hussies.

The rain let up for a week and the ground dried out enough to begin using big equipment. I backed the riding lawnmower out of the shed and got it running. I had not personally cut the grass since buying the used machine, because I had friends and neighbors who took turns on it last year. It took me awhile to figure out how to get the blades going. I chose a knob that looked promising and gave it a tug. The serpentine belt went flying and the engine cut out.

Serpentine belt came off the deck the first time I tried to use the mower this year.

Serpentine belt came off the deck the first time I tried to use the mower this year.

The grass grows fast in the Spring and it was like mowing a jungle.

The grass grows fast in the Spring and it was like mowing a jungle.

I went online and discovered that I had done the right thing, it just hadn’t gone well. I checked local repair shops and found they were closed for the weekend. And then I looked up schematics for a Husqvarna blade deck and got some tools and pulled it apart and put the belt back in it’s place. I put it all back together and tried again. Viola!

Add small tractor repair to my list of talents.

There is a lot of grass to cut here. The property is 4.3 acres and I imagine the house and pond take up the 0.3, leaving approximately 4 acres to mow. Whew. It took me 5 days of mowing to get it all done. About 14 hours total. The tractor wasn’t running well and I ended up taking it to the shop when I got done. It should be done in a week and I’ll have sharpened blades and I’ll be able to tackle all that grass once more.

I’m continuing with adding a bit of landscaping here and there: rhododendrons and azealas, honeysuckle and camelias, a bunch of hydrangeas from my Uncle who lives a couple towns over, and a few plants my mother gave me years ago: a peony, some irises, and lavender. Each day the place becomes a little bit more my own personal heaven.

Looking across the pond up to the house, while taking a break from mowing the back forty.

Looking across the pond up to the house, while taking a break from mowing the back forty.

Working in a dense and unkempt flower bed, I spotted a solitary egg out in the rain.

Working in a dense and unkempt flower bed, I spotted a solitary egg out in the rain.

Over the weekend I found a nest.

A little background: I have not yet built a proper fence that is high enough to keep my hens penned. They simply lift like multicoloured Harrier jets and launch over the four-foot fence. They roam far and wide, doing their own thing, and get into enough trouble that I have been calling them The Hussies. Only one of them comes home to lay, and till recently, I had no idea where most of the eggs were laid.

My good friend was visiting from Boise and stayed with me for four days. Sunday we were in the mood to do yard work. The weather was wholly uncooperative, and the heavens opened up and poured all day long. We donned hats and jackets and boots (my friend was shocked I did not have Wellies) and went out anyway. We raked muddy leaves and hauled heaps of wet sticks and branches and built up two new slash piles for burning at some future date.

Why did the chickens cross the road?

Why did the chickens cross the road?

My friend doing yard work in the pouring rain.

My friend doing yard work in the rain, in Wellington boots.

The Hussies like it when I do yard work and particularly when I dig, because whenever I come across a worm I make sure one of them gets a crack at it. The ladies were hanging around, clucking, pecking, scraping their beaks across stones in a manner that suggests wiping their chins of grime. They did not alert me to the discovery I was about to make, of a treasure stockpile of which at least one of them was well aware.

As I untangled dead sticks and blackberry brambles from ferns, I spied an egg on the ground, exposed and lying atop some coals discarded from a long-ago fire in the woodstove. I hollered at my friend to come over and see.

He was dripping wet head to toes, with hands stained yellow from the dye leeching out of his sopping wet calfskin gloves. Happy for an excuse for a break, he came over to where I was working, and I walked closer to the egg to show him where to go.

I walked closer and got a new view. Something pale-coloured beneath the ferns. Something light in the dark. I bent down and spotted the motherlode of eggs! There were NINETEEN eggs piled up! Carefully tucked into a nest of decaying pine needles and ferns, was a pile of eggs, laid one at a time in patient confidence. It looked like a turtle nest. I was so excited I was hopping around with glee.

Wait, what is that in the ferns?

Wait, what is that in the ferns?

The motherlode

The mother lode

Look at these brown and beautiful eggs!

Look at these brown and beautiful eggs!

Lacey! Are these your eggs? Thank you ma'am!

Lacey! Are these your eggs? Thank you ma’am!

Egg farmer

Egg farmer

For anyone curious, eggs are laid with an antibacterial membrane, an invisible coating called a bloom, that seals the eggs and protects the freshness as well as holds in moisture. Eggs can be stored at room temperature for weeks like this, as long as the eggs are not washed. Eggs can be refrigerated for months unwashed, and will stay fresh. The weather around here has been in the 40s and up to around 50 degrees some days, so I call that refrigerated. However, with all the rain, they may have been “washed.” We used the egg floating test. Put an egg in a bowl of cool water. If it lies horizontally on the bottom, it’s very fresh. If it tips up, but stays in contact with the bottom: still fresh, but less so. If it floats: no good, throw it out. All my eggs were good! As of this morning, we’ve eaten them all.

Snow coming down at my place

Snow coming down at my place

Longtime friends of mine recently returned to their Spokane home from a New Year’s vacation in Australia and remarked on leaving the greenery down under and arriving at the whitery at home. I have shamelessly adopted their humor as my own. 🙂

chicken in snow

chicken in snow

I live in a valley that is about 500 feet in elevation. That’s not really worth raising an eyebrow at in the Pacific NW, but it does mean a bit more snow than if I were at sea level. The cold air sinks to the bottom of my valley and means the snow lingers a little longer too. I like it. I’ve lived in places most my life where winter was a serious situation: Vermont, Colorado, northern Nevada, Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts, and the worst winters of all in Idaho. It’s luxury not to have to shovel snow for months, but I also miss having the white stuff around. I only need enough to make it feel like winter is here for real.

In the past six weeks we’ve had enough snow to warrant some photos and a post.

Looking at the tiny hen house from the deck.

Looking at the tiny hen house from the deck.

Chicken hussies were not phased by their first snow, and treated it as they do everything: tasting it. Snow proved edible, and they spent all morning eating it.

Chicken hussies were not phased by their first snow, and treated it as they do everything: tasting it. Snow proved edible, and they spent all morning eating it.

This is Jamie. I can tell her from her twin by the patterns on her back.

This is Jamie. I can tell her from her twin by the patterns on her back.

What's up? Chicken butt!

What’s up? Chicken butt!

Looking up at the house. Even in the winter I am pretty sure I need a couple of trees hanging over that deck. Guess I'll be planting this spring.

Looking up at the house. Even in the winter I am pretty sure I need a couple of trees hanging over that deck. Guess I’ll be planting this spring.

The pond froze over, so the wild ducks went off to find a more accommodating home.

The pond froze over, so the wild ducks went off to find a more accommodating home.

So remember when I blogged about the flooding here? The creek water was so high that it eroded the banks and turned everything that was left to mud. A couple days later there was an enormous downburst in this area, and that blasted high winds into the trees in Rainier. Mature trees were snapped off everywhere, at about 30 feet up from the ground, blocking many roads. Many more were torn right out of the soggy ground, and laid flat. This was the case on my property, where most of the trees down were those whose roots were exposed and loosened due to the flooding. Fresh snow on the downed trees makes it easier to see them on a dark winter day.

Alder in the creek. In total, I have eight trees down. Six are in the creek.

Alder in the creek. In total, I have eight trees down. Six are in the creek.

The log resting horizontally here shows high water level back when the creek flooded.

The log resting horizontally in the air was dropped there when the creek flooded.

Tara and I made a trip up to Moyie Springs, Idaho to visit my stepdad. Our timing was not so great, as we encountered a storm in Hood River, Oregon (about an hour out of Portland), and the snow and slick roads continued all the way through Kennewick, Washington through Spokane and Coer d’Alene, and finally stopped coming down in Sandpoint (about an hour from our destination). It was a 12-hour day, but the Dragon Wagon (my Jeep) did a great job and we were safe all day long. We arrived at Jim’s house to dry ground, but by morning the storm had caught up with us.

View from the Hood River Starbucks as we got some fuel for the road.

View from the Hood River Starbucks as we got some fuel for the road.

View from Jim's cabin in Moyie Springs the morning after we arrived.

View from Jim’s cabin in Moyie Springs the morning after we arrived.

Jim loves antique cars, and so I'm going to assume these are here intentionally, waiting under the snow for some future TLC.

Jim loves antique cars, and so I’m going to assume these are here intentionally, waiting under the snow for some future TLC.

Now these are clearly well loved cars. Tara and I have been for a ride in the one in the center.

Now these are clearly well loved cars. Tara and I have been for a ride in the one in the center.

What do you do when it snows? You shovel, of course.

What do you do when it snows? You shovel, of course.

Now granted, these photos don’t show the worst of what winter can be. Snow only piled up about two inches deep here, and after four days it melted. We’ve had a few more snow falls since, and as you see from the photos, it is just enough to cover the ground. The temps were low in Moyie Springs, down around 18 degrees Fahrenheit overnight. Here in Rainier it dropped into the 20s for a few days, but now it’s up into the nice toasty 40s again and all the whitery is gone.

So I’m satisfied. My Winter check box has been checked, and I’m ready for Spring now.

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